1. ITV Report

Ban on smacking children in Wales moves a step closer

Credit: PA Images

A law which would make it illegal to smack children in Wales has moved a step closer after the Welsh Government published a bill removing "reasonable punishment" as a defence.

The defence is currently available to parental figures if accused of assault or battery against a child.

The Government-led bill is being supported by a number of organisations including the NSPCC, Barnardo's and Action for Children.

Credit: PA

We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales.

What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity.

As one of the most progressive nations in the world when it comes to promoting children's rights, I am proud this Welsh Government is legislating to bring an end to the physical punishment of children in Wales, further protecting children's rights.

– Deputy minister for health and social services, Julie Morgan

The bill will now be discussed by assembly members, with Welsh Government sources confident it will be passed by the National Assembly and brought into law next spring.

The Government said the legislation will be accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign and support for parents.

Research published last year found 81% of parents of young children in Wales disagreed that "it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child", while a survey in 2017 found only 11% of parents with young children reported they had smacked their children in the last six months.

The legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" has been used in law since 1860.

Wales would join 54 countries around the world which have already banned the physical punishment of children, including Greece, Latvia, Albania, DR Congo, Kenya, with Sweden being the first to do so back in 1979.

It's wrong that children in Wales have less protection from assault and that a legal defence which does not exist when an adult is hit can be used to justify striking a child.

Closing this loophole brings Wales in line with dozens of countries across the world and is simply about fairness and equality for our children.

– Viv Laing, head of policy at NSPCC Cymru

When a parent raises a hand to a defenceless child, whether that's a smack, slap or another physically harmful behaviour, they have lost control.

Research tells us that children who are physically punished are more likely to have poorer mental health and physical well-being and when they grow up, are more likely to engage in self-destructive or antisocial behaviour. Hurting a child isn't acceptable and it is a form of child abuse.

– Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

But the plans have been criticised by the campaign group Be Reasonable - backed by The Christian Institute and The Family Education Trust - which said the legislation would criminalise parents.

It is disappointing that the Welsh Government has decided to press on with this unnecessary piece of legislation that will do nothing to protect children, but will criminalise loving parents.

As we have seen from a slew of Freedom of Information requests, parents suspected of smacking face suspension, investigation by the police and social services, and prosecution.

– Spokeswoman Lowri Turner